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Dihydrocodeine vs codeine: a comparison of pain relief benefits


Codeine Phosphate tablets (commonly known as Codeine) and Dihydrocodeine tablets are considered to be highly effective pain-relieving medications; intended for treating various levels and types of pain.

What is the difference between codeine and dihydrocodeine?

Both Codeine and Dihydrocodeine belong to a group of medications called opioid analgesics and are commonly used for the management of pain. They work by reducing the pain signals that the body sends to the brain through the nervous system and mimicking the endorphins that your body produces to deliver a pain-relieving effect.

The main difference between Dihydrocodeine and Codeine is in the strength of the two medications.

Is dihydrocodeine stronger than codeine?

Dihydrocodeine is a stronger opioid analgesic variant than Codeine, which makes it more suitable for treating moderate to severe pain from conditions like sciatica, types of arthritis and chronic neuropathic pain.

Codeine is not as strong as Dihydrocodeine and is often used to treat mild to moderate pain, such as headaches, period pain or back pain. It is often used only when regular pain-relieving medicines, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, have been tried and haven’t offered a high enough level of pain relief.

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Are dihydrocodeine and codeine safe to take?

Most healthy adults are able to take either of these two types of medication, but some people with certain health conditions or lifestyle habits might not be suitable for these medicines. It’s also possible, although rare, for people to have an allergic reaction to either of these medications, which will require immediate medical care.

You should speak to your doctor before taking Codeine if you:

  • Have had an allergic reaction to pain relief medication in the past
  • Have lung disease or lung/breathing problems
  • Experience regular asthma attacks
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have low or high blood pressure
  • Have liver or kidney problems
  • Are taking other medications, including herbal remedies
  • Regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week
  • Have recently had a head injury
  • Have epilepsy

If you’re not sure if any of these apply to you, it’s best to consult a medical professional before taking Codeine.

You should speak to your doctor before taking Dihydrocodeine if you:

  • Have had a recent head injury or have increased pressure in the head
  • Have high or low blood pressure
  • Have epilepsy
  • Have renal impairment or problems with your liver or kidneys
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week
  • Have a chronic lung or respiratory condition
  • Are taking other medications, including herbal remedies
  • Have regular asthma attacks or have allergen hypersensitivity

If you have any concerns, it’s always best to check with your doctor before starting a course of Dihydrocodeine.

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery when using either Codeine or Dihydrocodeine, or while their effects last, as both of these medications can cause sleepiness or drowsiness.

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Are dihydrocodeine or codeine addictive?

Both of these medications are designed for short-term use only and, as with all opioids, taking them for longer than prescribed can be dangerous, with the potential of opioid addiction and opioid dependence. If you’re concerned about addiction, please visit our addiction help page.

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